Did you know that more than 40 million people have bagged bargains at Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) during the 15 years since its launch? That’s about the same amount of people as the entire population of Argentina. Founded in 1995, the festival’s primary aim is to stimulate the economy and give Dubai’s tourism a boost. Run by the same office as Summer Surprises (yes, the people responsible for Modhesh), DSF is the original Dubai bonanza festival – Summer Surprises was launched later, in 1998.
Of course, being in Dubai, DSF is no ordinary, bog-standard, run-of-the-mill festival. It’s known not just for shopping, but for the many events that happen during the month, which last year included performances of popular West End musical Blood Brothers, the Gulf Bike Festival (which is back this year), and gigs from Nickelback and Status Quo. There have also been 40 Guinness world records broken under DSF’s patronage since its inception, including the world’s largest paperclip (which was two metres high) and the world’s largest chopsticks (measuring 6.7 metres). Even more impressive than mammoth utensils is the fact that Dhs84 billion has been spent in the shops during DSF and Dhs1.35 billion worth of prizes have been given away to Dubai’s shoppers.
This year, the festival runs from January 20 to February 20 and promises to be epic. With more than 60 Lexus and Nissan cars to give away, 32 days of bargains at 50 landmark shopping malls, fireworks every day and 150 satellite events, we’re expecting this DSF to be the best yet – and there are still attractions and events that are yet to be unveiled. Here’s our pick of the best deals and buys uncovered so far.
Where shall I start?
DSF’s grand opening ceremony takes place on Thursday January 20 at Burj Khalifa Boulevard (those still traumatised after battling the area’s New Year’s Eve traffic jams will probably steer clear), where a ‘spectacular’ – a vague but promising description – is sure to impress. If you want to stay on the other side of the creek, Dubai Creek Park will light up with fireworks as part of the opening ceremony. In fact, fireworks will be a regular occurrence, with the Seef area of Creek Park illuminated at 8.30pm every night of the 32-day festival.
The festival has lured a bevy of international stars to entertain the crowds. N.E.R.D and famed frontman Pharrell Williams will be playing at Dubai Festival Centre on February 10, with tickets from Dhs250, while on February 11 undeniably talented wild child Amy Winehouse will be playing at the same venue, with tickets starting at Dhs300 (www.timeouttickets.com).
Meanwhile, the Burj Khalifa Steps area will host stars from the Arabic music scene. Faris Karam and Shireen Abdulwahhab play on January 28; Tamer Housni on February 3; Rabeh Saker on February 10; Wael Kfoury and Elissa on February 11; and finally Fadel Shaker and Haifa Wehbe on February 18. Ticket prices are yet to be confirmed – keep an eye on www.mydsf.ae for more.
Bollywood stars will also be making an appearance, with Sunidhi Chauhan and rock star KK promising a family-friendly four-hour non-stop Bollywood musical spectacular on January 28 at the Madinat Arena. Tickets are Dhs150-Dhs500 from www.timeouttickets.com. For those of you after a more relaxed event, the company behind DSF is also hosting the Skywards Dubai International Jazz Festival on January 20-28: Macy Gray, Jools Holland, Train and Alison Moyet will all be playing at Dubai Media City amphitheatre. Visit www.dubaijazzfest.com for more info.
What can I win?
Cars, and lots of them Every day during the 32-day festival, a Lexus LX570 will be given away in the DSF raffle – the lucky winner of each car will also walk away with Dhs100,000 in cash. Raffle tickets are Dhs200 and can be picked up at Enoc and Eppco petrol stations, as well as Global Village. Also on offer are 32 Nissans – from the Patrol to the Armada – for people who spend at Enoc and Eppco stations.
Gold and diamonds The huge Dubai Gold and Jewellery Group (the city’s authority on bling) is giving away 21kg of gold, as well as diamond, pearls and watch prizes totalling Dhs3 million. The gold is being distributed in 500g lots every day during the festival, with one bumper prize of 5kg up for grabs; for a chance to win, just spend Dhs500 at any participating retailer. For the jewels you have to cough up more, spending Dhs1,000 on diamonds, pearls or watches. Most shops are getting involved – to find out if the shop you’re about to visit is participating, see www.dubaicityofgold.com.
Where can I stay?
Tourism is a big factor in DSF, meaning the city’s hotels always come up with plenty of deals to lure visitors. There are hundreds of discounts to wade through – here’s our pick of the best.
Jumeirah Emirates Towers Stay on Thursday, Friday or Saturday and get a buffet breakfast for two, a Dhs200 gift voucher for the hotel’s high-end shopping area and a 30 per cent discount at the hotel’s restaurants. Dhs975 per room per night.
DIFC (04 330 0000).
Holiday Inn Express Stay at this hotel chain’s spot near Safa Park for only Dhs300 with breakfast, or the Internet City location for Dhs350, also with breakfast. If you’re visiting the latter, check out Time Out favourite Vista – a restaurant with great barbecue deals and a gorgeous terrace.
Sheikh Zayed Road, near Safa Park (04 511 9333); Knowledge Village (04 427 5555).
Shangri-La This hotel is known for its great spa and restaurants. Stay during the shopping festival and you’ll receive a voucher for a free massage treatment or desert safari. Rooms start at Dhs1,150 for single occupancy, Dhs1,450 for double.
Sheikh Zayed Road (04 343 8888).
Where can I eat?
Thai Kitchen This fantastically authentic Thai restaurant is offering a five-course set dinner menu for Dhs99 during DSF. Sit outside by the creek and enjoy everything from fried shrimp toast to coconut rice pudding. It’ll be well deserved after trawling the malls.
Park Hyatt Dubai, Deira (04 317 2222).
The exact details of many DSF events are yet to be confirmed, but here are some starting points to whet your appetite.
The Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residence: This lively pedestrian spot will host a funfair for families, and promises to offer plenty of kiosks, stalls and performers to give a lively street feel. We’d advise leaving the car at home – The Walk often gets jammed with Ferraris and Lambos at the weekends.
Fashion at The Dubai Mall: Running from February 10-20, fashion festival Creations will offer several events that revolve around launching fresh regional talent. We’ll keep you updated on the exact details as they’re revealed.
In the meantime, call 04 362 7500 for more info.
A shed-load of carpets: Throughout the festival, the west hall of Dubai Airport Expo in Garhoud will fill up with thousands of rugs from Iran, Turkey, India, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Pakistan, many of them sold at cut prices.
For info, call Ahlan Dubai on 600 545 555.
Keep updated: Keep an eye out for our bumper bonanza shopping festival supplement, free with Time Out on January 27.